Editing on the iPad

Purely coincidentally, earlier this week I posted a tirade on my blog about Why I don’t use the iPad for serious writing.

Having Scrivener available on the iPad would fix about half the problems. (Especially if it’s able to sync with Scrivener projects stored on DropBox, Box.net, iCloud, or some other cloud based storage service.)

But I’ve still got some misgivings.

On-screen keyboard support is problematic – I note that some regularly-used punctuation (apostrophe and double quotes in particular) are a pain in the neck to enter using the default iOS keyboard. Some apps such as Nebulous provide bespoke keyboard with additional glyphs; this is probably the way forward.

But there are still more problems; External keyboard support is, of course, essential. However, I gather iOS supports only limited cursor movement key bindings and silently swallows anything you input via an external keyboard that it doesn’t understand.

Scrivener is a tool for working on long documents, by definition. iOS offers only very weak tools for navigating through large volumes of text. What can be done about this?

I don’t use the iPad for writing, either, which is partly why it’s always been essential we find someone else to work on the iPad version, someone who does use their iPad in this way. I do take notes on my iPhone occasionally, though, and then I have to email them to my computer and copy and paste them into my Scrivener project. For me, I want to be able to open my project on my iPhone when an idea strikes while I’m out without my computer, or reading in bed, or whatever, jot some things down and have them available on my MacBook the next day. That would include being able to create a new document, add some notes, maybe a label, and move things around if necessary.

Obviously we can’t turn the iPad or iPhone into something they are not, but on the other hand, Scrivener already encourages users to break up large volumes of text into smaller chunks. These are all good points, though, and things we are going to have to consider.

All the best,

It’s an interesting point though. Is the iOS version going to be primarily a ‘satellite’ device designed to compliment a desktop based version, or a standalone app which happens to be able to share files?

It has to be both - in order to charge for it, we have to ensure it can be used by those who don’t use Scrivener on the desktop and that can use it as a standalone app. But it also has to serve as a satellite device for those who also use Scrivener’s full feature set when at their main computer.

All valid today but what about tomorrow?

My take on the iPad is this: for Steve Jobs, it was a second chance at executing a basic concept – his vision of an all-in-one, sealed, curated “computer for everyone” device. Version 1.0 was the original Macintosh. In 1979, the Mac project goal was a machine costing no more than $999, that anyone could use straight out of the box. It sort of grew and mutated, and after Steve left Apple in 1986 it sprouted expansion slots and external monitors – stuff anathema to his original vision. So, 20 years later, he got a chance to do it again. But he’s also left Apple again, and the original vision will be diluted over time.

As for what it’s going to be diluted into, my guess is that it’s going to be to the next, post-PC generation of computing as the Mac was to GUI-driven PCs (only more commercially successful). That is: we’re going to see the computer biz shift towards cloud-centric lightweight machines with multitouch interfaces.

Somewhere down the road – not before 2013, I think, but probably no later than 2014 – we’re going to see an iPad Pro; a device which is to today’s iPad or iPad 2 as the Macintosh II was to the original 128K Mac. Back in 1984, the original Mac was with some justification written off as a “toy” by serious computer users. But by 1987, with the Mac II and System 7, that dismissal had worn very thin.

I think it’s going to take you quite some time to get Scrivener for iOS working. Consequently, if I were in your shoes I’d be aiming not at the iPad (as it is today) but towards the iPad Pro that’s sitting on the horizon – or at least the iPad 3 (with retina display and A5 processor) that we’re pretty sure we know the specs of and that is coming next spring. Of course, I’m not in your shoes :wink: and I’m probably babbling. I hope this makes sense …?

I don’t find the iPad’s tap-hold-slide movement all that onerous for entering an apostrophe/single quote or double quote, though, in general, if I’m writing a piece with the onscreen keyboard I’m slower and more prone to typos.

That said, it’s only fair of me to say that I usually don’t decide to write a lot of text on the spur of the moment, but rather know before I head out what I plan to work on and take my Apple BT keyboard with me. (I have it in a Belkin case that opens into holder for the iPad.)

I’m so happy that this is in development that I’m loath to offer many ideas in case it sounds like I know more than I do about coding. :confused:

Hi, Jen here (L&L’s new iOS bod)

All great comments Charlie, and I wouldn’t be surprised if further down the line we see something more “pro” come out. But given how Apple work these days the “pro” will also be desirable for the mainstream. I think it’s unlikely they’ll add the Pro moniker to anything they can manufacture at great scale. The iPad is already “pro” if you consider all the professional uses it’s put to.

And, I wouldn’t be surprised if by spring 2013 there’s more than one model available as it’s likely they’ll keep the iPad 2 for a few years as there’s nothing wrong with it technically. I’d say it’ll be late 2013 at the earliest before we see Apple drop it. Look at the 3GS, for 99% of tasks it feels just as snappy as my 4S does.

But back to Scrivener for iOS. There’s two key things we must never forget, the first is it’s Scrivener and the second is it’s for iOS. It’s got to do the things Scrivener needs to do and and yet it’s got to work on the touch based iOS, so it has to be different to iOS on the desktop.

There’s things we can’t do on iOS, and yet there’s many new things we can do. It’s going to be different but it’s still going to be Scrivener.

Scrivener already means different things for different people. Even for me it’s a different beast when I’m at my desk working on a high res screen compared to working on my MBP alone. Just being somewhere else other than at my desk changes the writing experience too. When I write on my iPad (and I do), it’s different again. There’s been times when I’ve written or outlined or edited on the iPad just because it was different and my engagement with my work was different.

Will there ever be an Apple OS convergence? I don’t know, maybe a little bit in a few years. I feel Microsoft have got it all wrong with an approach that slaps one UI on top of another. Even they don’t seem clear whether Metro is atop Desktop or the other way around. It’ll be interesting to see how the software works on a platform with such dual personalities. I think we’ll see some clever solutions hidden amongst a flood of poorly through together muddles.

It’s not all up to Apple to produce an OS that supports a seamless transition from phone > tablet > laptop > desktop monster. The transition comes in the apps you use and how they handle your tasks.

Scrivener has to be a different kettle of fish when running on an iPad and different again when running on an iPhone. Our aim is to make all those differences work for you, so you’re not missing your mouse and cursing the interface.


Me too. Although my KB of choice is a stowaway foldable http://cnet.co/rKgENT as it’s full size and yet folds small enough to disappear in my bag.

At this point, our aim is to some degree, to be able to answer “Yes” to both. Exact features and timeline are still to be decided.

Maybe, but writers are still going to need keyboards, and I think there’s a lot of mileage left in the Mac and laptops as yet. Although many iPad users are happy to hawk around an external keyboard, I find my MBA 11" far more convenient than that set-up. And is everyone really going to give up all their precious data to the cloud? Maybe, in a few years, but I bet that’s going to be the next generation of computer-users. A lot of existing users - myself included - will be resistant and still want all their data on their own machines. I already use Dropbox and trust it more than I probably should, but at least that data is actually on my machines as well as on the cloud - the idea of having the data on the cloud and not locally as well, which is where things seem to be going, is not something I really look forward to. But much of this is besides the point:

We can only work with what is available - iOS 5. We can’t write a version of Scrivener for a device that doesn’t exist yet, obviously. And as of yet, Apple have shown no real interest in turning iOS into a full-powered computer; it is still mainly a consumption device. For instance, Jen is having to work on her own rich text system because there is no standard rich text system available on iOS - and how long have iPads been available now? I think this shows that Apple still doesn’t see it as a writing machine, really, as does the fact that their own flagship writing app, Pages, is very limited and stripped down on the iPad. iOS is just not capable of a full computing experience - it would have to merge with OS X to be so.

So, as things stand, an iOS version of Scrivener can only be as powerful as iOS allows - there’s a reason there are no powerhouse apps on the iPad, and that they are all stripped-down. As Jen says, Scrivener on iOS will be a different experience. It is never going to have all of the features of the Mac version - that’s technically impossible. It will still, we hope, be a useful writing tool for those who take their iPads (or iPhones) with them wherever they go, though. For existing Scrivener users, it won’t be a replacement, but a supplement; for those not using Scrivener, hopefully it will be useful on its own.

All the best,

I think it would be great for the Scrivener app to be standalone, but does it have to be standalone? Is this some ‘App Store’ policy I’m not aware of? I know of at least one app that exists only as an adjunct to the desktop version (‘Reunion’ which clocks in at £10.49).

No, you can have apps that rely on desktop or server software. Even apps that rely on specific hardware if you need that.

We’re simply planning on allowing the iOS app to be used flexibly. As a great mobile companion to the desktop apps and great on it’s own.

I’m brand new to Scrivener, so this might seem elementary; but I would love to see Scrivener be able to import directly from Evernote. I find Evernote to be a fantastic tool for very basic writing on the iPad. All the complaints about iPad notwithstanding, for jotting down key ideas, paragraphs and even thoughts of intermediate length the iPad is a great tool. Of great advantage is its portability and extreme battery life. Then the notes could be imported onto the cork board. That would be really helpful for guys like me who like to get away to Starbucks and write a paragraph or two. If you have only a PC, or even a MacBook Pro, the lack of portability and/or battery life are limitations the iPad overcomes conveniently.

So, I say, give people as many options as possible, which seems to be something Scrivener does quite will in the program interface. Just add a few more import options, like being able to import html, or emailing directly into a project. That wouldn’t be too hard to do by using the subject line in certain ways or by integrating project titles into an umbrella email address system.

Go for it, developers. I am really excited to find Scrivener.

I’ve been using the trial version for Windows for about 4 months now. I have an iPad and was wondering if there is any way at all to see my project on it. I’d like to buy the full version, but until there’s an iOS version or some way to view projects on the iPad, I’m hesitant.

I found the video for using Simplenote, but apparently that’s just Mac only. Nothing for Windows at all?


Bear in mind that sync’ing with the iPad is a Mac Scrivener 2 feature. Scrivener 2 took Keith 2 years to develop from Scrivener 1 on the Mac; Scrivener 1 for Mac had taken some 5 years, I believe, to reach v. 1.54, the version before v. 2 came out. Would you and the other Windows users have been happy to wait another 5 years of hearing about Scrivener, while Lee did all the work to launch it feature-identical with the Mac version?

Scrivener 1 for Windows, as I understand it, is equivalent to most of Mac v. 1.54 with some Mac v. 2 features, and took Lee a couple of years to get it to that point, given that he’s had to program it from the ground up — it’s not a “simple port”. So be patient. Scrivener Windows will get sync’ing, but a baseline feature-set had to be established for launch and that didn’t include sync’ing. But my understanding is that Lee aims to meet feature parity with Mac v. 2 by the end of 2012. I think he must have found his cave very attractive, as he’ll spend most of the year in it!

And by the end of 2012, the Mac version will presumably be well on it’s way to v. 3. And if you had to wait another 5 years, he’d be trying to match Mac v. 5 in conceptual and feature terms or something like that for release, not v. 2.


Neither the iPhone nor the iPad existed when Scrivener 1.0 (Mac) came out. Syncing to those platforms is a relatively new feature, even on the Mac. As xiamenese pointed out, it will take some time for Win Scriv to catch up.


I started using Scrivener in October of 2010, and my iPad a few months ago, so have been gradually using my iPad more for serious writing. I use the onscreen keyboard for short notes - my style is a fast hunt and peck so it works OK for that. And I have an Apple BT keyboard for more serious work.
I use Simplenote along with Scrivener for Windows. Syncing is via cut and paste but I am getting used to the process.
Obviously I’d like to see better sync in the windows version, even better if that sync is via an iPad app. And even better if that app lets me have the whole novel along with me somehow, including an index card view and my Notes. I don’t need a compile in it, but I realize a standalone would need some way to output the text - maybe just as RTF that can be massaged with something like Word.

Glad to be a beta tester too, if you’re looking!


Bear in mind that I completely understand and appreciate all the hard work done to make Scrivener available to Windows users. :wink:

I was just simply hoping that someone had come up with an alternative to writing on the iPad and moving it into Scrivener without a huge amount of work. I’ve been researching iPad writing apps, but none come close to the tools available with Scrivener.

I am a definite fan. I’m just trying to find a work-around until the availability gets worked out. I find it much easier to write with just the iPad and a keyboard than to lug my laptop around.

(And I would be more than happy to be a beta-tester if needed.)

Take care,


The answer is easy: Swype. I am writing a full novel with one finger. Swype is THE tool for writing on a tablet. By the way, that way I can go walk in the woods and write while standing or sitting. Plus, no more neck pain from keyboard induced position. Once you have a tablet and Swype you are COMPLETELY FREE. No more desks, no more chairs. You can write anywhere. Which is what I do now. I write in the woods. :slight_smile:

I’ll confess that I’ve never used swype, and as it’s not available in iOS (I’m going to ignore the jailbreak options that exist for older devices).

But I consider swype to be the same category of other niche input methods - efficient in it’s own way but not going to please 99% of people.

And as to writing in the woods? Are you crazy? (please dont be offended) but I’d break my neck around here if I tried that. I’d be tripping over a root or downed tree before I got through the first paragraph.

I keep my trips through the woods to being a trip through the woods (usually a nighttime run actually. It that’s another story) and keep my writing to when I’m not needing to avoid running into a low branch or falling I a stream!

But good luck with the woodland based novel.